Category Archives: Italy

Wines from Italy

Montupoli Red Wine 2008 -Abruzzo, Italy

I’ll warn all of you ahead of time this review is going to be brutal. So if you’re squeamish turn away now. There will be blood and guts everywhere by the time I am done.

I bought this wine to pair up with a recipe of Pasta Bolognese that I intended to make for company that was coming (I had a nice vegetarian version up my sleeve by the way). The recipe called for a robust red wine and I also wanted a nice Italian wine to drink with the meal. So, of course, I headed to my local Total Wine store.

At the store I was assisted in my wine selection by one of their wine experts (though she was new to me so I knew I was taking a risk. I know a few people there that never steer me wrong…she wasn’t one of them I later found out.) I told her my requirements and she immediately suggested this ‘lovely’ Montupoli wine from Abruzzo, Italy. She said she always has this wine when she has Italian food. I trusted her! I also was intrigued by the fact that the wine was made with Sangiovese grapes. ‘How could that be bad?’ I thought to myself!

She also suggested a cheaper Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (to be reviewed at a later date) for the recipe itself because no one really wants to cook with a more expensive wine after all. So with my treasures in hand I skipped home to start my cooking. Once home I discovered that my guest was not coming and so I put off the meal for another day.

A few days later I decided to open this ‘lovely’ Montupoli wine from Abruzzo, Italy and really enjoy it. I opened the bottle and I at once was not ‘at one’ with the smell. ‘Maybe that’s just the Sangiovese grapes’ I told myself. I bravely poured myself a glass and took a sip. It was HORRIBLE! I can’t even tell you what it tasted like but it was unlike any wine I’ve ever tasted. It actually tasted like it was formulated in a chemical plant to me. Absolutely AWFUL! This, my friends, is the first wine in a long time that I actually labeled ‘Undrinkable’. I saved it in my refrigerator with the hopes of at least cooking with it but I can’t bring myself to do that at all. It will be dumped…right after I finish writing this.

So my rating is this…I give it a rating of 4. It gets 2 points for having a cork rather than a screw top and 2 points for the mere fact that it was imported from Italy.

Maybe I got a bad bottle. That’s always a possibility but I am gun shy now and I probably won’t be trying another bottle of this wine any time soon. It was a wasted $9.99 in my opinion.

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #2 – Serve White Wines Cold

Well being last week’s Interesting Wine Facts was about the serving temperature of red wines I figured it would only be fair to do the same for white wines.

Most people already know that white wines are served chilled but most, like me, don’t know what that temperature actually is supposed to be. White wines should be served between 48-53 degrees F. This is usually the standard temperature that you’ll find in your refrigerator.

It’s also good to note that even though white wines are supposed to be served cold make sure you don’t serve them too cold. That can affect the flavors of the wine too.

Another good tip for white wines is to take them out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before you’re going to drink them.

If you’re serving a champagne, sparkling wine, or Prosecco it should be served between 40 to 45 degrees F. In order to get it to this temperature you may have to place it in an ice bucket filled with ice or put it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to get it to that temperature. Of course, you should have had it in the refrigerator before that but the standard temperature in your fridge is not going to be cold enough to get your bubbly to the right temperature thus the use of the ice bucket or freezer stated above.

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #1 – Serve at Room Temperature

Here I would like to introduce you to a new series of posts called ‘Interesting Wine Facts’. This is where I will share a few interesting facts that I’ve learned about wines recently. So without further ado here’s fact #1.

FACT #1: Red wine should be served at a temperature of 65 degrees.

Most people have heard that red wine should be served at room temperature and never put in the fridge. The fact is that in the old days in European wine country that was indeed true and for the most part is still true however, ‘room temperature’ there is different then say here in Florida. If I serve my red wine at room temperature you’re going to get a nice hot wine most of the time.

The fact is that it is best to serve wines at their suggested temperature rather than some arbitrary, nondescript instruction of ‘serve at room temperature’. The actual  serving temperature for most red wines is 65 degrees F. If you are in a cooler  climate you probably can achieve that by leaving the wine at ‘room temperature’ but if you’re in a warmer climate it’s perfectly okay to put the bottle in the refrigerator for an hour or so, use a bucket of ice to chill it for 15 to 20 minutes, or any other method to get it to reach its optimal temperature. No one is going to take your head off for doing that especially if they really know their wines.

Champagne, Sparkling Wine, and Prosecco – Oh My!

While planning my menu for my birthday celebration last week I decided to make a cheese souffle and with that came some new knowledge (at least to me anyway) that I would like to share with you all.

You see, all of the resources that I looked up in order to see what I should serve along side of my cheese souffle said the same thing – serve with a nice green salad, crusty bread, and a nice champagne or sparkling wine.

With that knowledge I headed off to my local Total Wine and More store to procure that nice bottle of bubbly for my celebration. I told the nice man there what I was making and how it suggested either a nice bottle of champagne or a sparkling champagne to accompany it. He suggested a nice sparkling wine from France.

As he retrieved the bottle for me I had to ask the silly question that was floating around in my head – What’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine? I found the answer was simple and along the lines of what I expected.

In France their laws are very strict when it comes to wine making. No one can call their sparkling wine Champagne UNLESS it actually comes from Champagne, France.  If you’re even so much as a millimeter outside of Champagne, France you’ve created a sparkling wine! If you want to make a Champagne well then you better move your vines!

As Americans we are pretty much used to calling everything with bubbles Champagne because our laws couldn’t really care less where it’s made and we are just trained to call bubbly Champagne. However, if it doesn’t come from Champagne, France it technically isn’t Champagne….but it is really the same thing.

Italy has a similar law when it comes to their bubbly called Prosecco although technically to our American minds we’d probably call it Champagne too.

While researching this whole thing I found that apparently Prosecco is one of the most consumed bubbly in Italy. They even have a  lower end version that they sell to the masses that’s in pop top soda-like cans that is consumed regularly although the quality isn’t going to be like you find in the traditional bubbly-type bottles.

So that’s our little lesson for this week. I hope my learnings have sparked an interest in you to try some bubbly really soon be it Champagne, Sparkling Wine, or Prosecco. I’ve decided that we waste so many opportunities to enjoy a great bubbly because our society says it has to be a special occasion. I think we should all find reasons to celebrate and enjoy the finer things in life. That’s what it’s all about really, isn’t it?

I’ll share my review of the Sparkling Wine that was recommended to me by that nice man at the Total Wine store on Sunday. It just might be a great place for you to start too. 🙂

Conte Priola Pinot Noir – 2009 Italy

From Total Wine and More:

‘Silky smooth, this Pinot Noir has well defined flavors of red berries and cherries. Medium-bodied with soft tannins, this food friendly wine is easy drinking and pairs well with tuna, swordfish and flavorful vegetarian entrees.’

Price: $7.99

First off, if anyone reading this can tell me what Delle Venezie means I would really appreciate it. I believe it’s the wine region in Northeast Italy where this wine is from but a Google search revealed nothing but other sites trying to sell me Italian wine. And now…back to our regular scheduled program….

I found this to be a very nice wine. It’s color was a nice deep burgundy one. It tasted very oaky and earthy with a strong flavor of berries. It was a very mellow wine that went down easy with a long-lasting, dry finish. I found the finish mellowed out after the wine was left to breathe a little bit but I don’t really know if that was an actual reality or if it was just the result of the alcohol’s influence on my taste buds. I’ll have to try it again to know for sure.

I drank this wine by itself for the pleasure of having a glass of wine so I can’t comment on whether or not the food pairings that Total Wine and More referenced are correct though I would imagine it would be a great wine to accompany a fish or vegetarian meal.

Buzz factor: 6, it’s a nice wine with a bit of a buzz but not overly so. Very pleasant.

Overall likability: I rate this wine at a 9. I really enjoyed it. It was mellow without being weak or watered down. I will definitely be keeping a few bottles of this wine in my wine rack.

Candoni Pinot Grigio 2009 – Northeastern Italy

I am not going to pretend to even know the slightest thing about picking wines to match specific foods. Currently I go with an innate knowledge and trust that it’s going to guide me to the right wine/food pairing. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This time however it worked wonderfully well if I do say so myself.

This Pinot Grigio from the Veneto region of Italy was the perfect pairing for the recipes I choose for Christmas dinner. Last week my good friend, Camille, of ‘Camille Cooks’ posted a recipe called Chicken with Cornbread Stuffing and Sherry Pan Sauce and she paired it with another recipe called Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole with Rye Crumb Topping and I was drooling with anticipation to try it. So I printed out the recipe and made my shopping list and headed off to the grocery store with only a vague idea regarding the wine I would serve with it. I was determined to pair it with a white wine which is very rare for me. (Hello, remember me? Red wine girl?)

After gathering all the ingredients need to make my fabulous dinner (I changed the original recipe a smidgen because I am a vegetarian so the chicken was replaced with a vegetarian version of chicken and I dropped the caraway seeds because I’ve never been fond of them. 🙂 ) I set off to the wine section to see if I could find not only a decent white wine to go with it all but I also wanted an organic wine. Yes, I am challenging myself now but that’s what it’s all about right?

You see my other half tends to get a really bad headache from wines and I was set on finding out if it could possibly be due to the sulfites in regular wines. Organic wines have little to no added sulfites. All that are in organic wines are the naturally occurring sulfites. We’ll get back to my other half and my experiment on him in a bit.

So in the wine section I found this bottle of Candoni Pinot Grigio 2009 from Italy. I know that in the past I’ve like Pinot Grigios better than any other white wine so I went with that. I figured for $12.95 what did I have to lose, right?

Well, I was really pleasantly surprised with this wine. I can only describe it as very crisp, clean, and citrusy which is exactly what our meal was asking for. It was a nice light wine that completely complimented our meal but it could absolutely stand on it’s own as well. (I had a glass on it’s own after the meal….you know….to test it…yes, that’s what I was doing….testing whether the wine could stand on its own. 🙂 )

Now the bottle says that the wine is ‘made with organic grapes’ which means that it might not be 100% without added sulfites but it’s pretty close. I was pleasantly surprised that this organic wine could be so good.

As for my other half, he did really well with the wine. He drank two glasses of it, which for him is a lot, and didn’t really get a headache. He started to get a slight headache many hours latter but I am not convinced it was because of the wine due to two things. One, he’s had a slight headache due to a stiff neck and two, it happened so much after the fact that I am not sure there’s a true connection. So I’ll just have to experiment on him again. I’ve already got a biodynamic red wine with his name on it in the good old wine rack so stay tuned for that.

Anyway my overall impression of this wine is that it’s really crisp, clean, and citrusy. It would compliment any meal with chicken, fish, or even a tofu or pasta dish with a lemon-butter sauce. It would also be a nice wine to serve with a cheese platter in my amateur opinion. I will definitely buy this wine again and for now I have to rate it as my favorite white wine. There I’ve said it! I really like this white wine!

Buzz factor: 5, it’s a nice light wine with a bit of a buzz to it but not overwhelmingly so.

Overall impression: A very nice white wine that I would be happy to have share space in my wine rack with my beloved reds.

Fratelli D’Italia Chianti 2009 – Tuscany

Description from Total Wine and More:

‘A delicious Chianti with ripe plum and raspberry aromas. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long, fruity aftertaste. Montalbano, one of the seven Chianti subzones, is an ancient hill near Florence that was the hunting park of the Medici. {Fresh, Cherry, Plum, Medium-bodied}’

Price: $7.99

Type of Grape Used: Sangiovese

Region: Tuscany

This is my first taste of a Chianti. I am totally unfamiliar with what it’s supposed to be like so I can only rate it according to my first impressions. Maybe as I progress in my wine knowledge I’ll realize I missed something so if you’re a more accomplished wine connoisseur who can share some insight on this wine (or any other wine I sample) please feel free to educate me. That’s what I am here for!

I picked this 2009 Fratelli D’Italia (translated as: ‘Brothers of Italy) Chiani because I was making an Italian recipe that my brother sent me called ‘Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil’ and it called to be paired with a nice Chianti. Now my brother recommended a specific Chianti that he felt would match really well but alas my local Total Wine and More did not have that brand. So I was left alone to fend for myself in the unfamiliar world of Chianti.

Knowing absolutely nothing about Chianti’s and not having really made a connection with anyone at my Total Wine store yet, I quietly perused the Chianti aisle reading the recommendations and looking at all the pretty labels (I’ve told you before that this is how I generally pick wines…thus the reason for needing this education).

After trying to look like I knew what I was doing I quickly grabbed this bottle of Fratelli D’Italia Chianti because one, it was inexpensive (I’ll buy a more expensive wine if I know that I’ll like it or it was recommended. Otherwise this is usually my price range) and two, the label was…well…so Italian. With a label like that how could it NOT be good?

Upon opening the bottle at home my first impression was that it had a very fruity nose to it and it was very light bodied. My first taste was not what I expected. Again it could be just because I’ve never had a Chianti and I am usually a Merlot kind of gal so I expect red wines to be very complex and deep in flavor. This one was really light, not very bold, and bordering on bland.

After I let it breathe a bit it lost it’s fruity nose and I was left with nothing really remarkable to comment on.

Now before you think ‘Hell, she hated this wine’ I have to say that this wine is suggested for bold meals like red meats, roasts, and spicy Italian dishes. Knowing that and after a little thought I realized that maybe it’s the lightness of this wine that MAKES it great for those pairings. This wine was suggested to me to go with a spicy Italian meal and had it been any bolder or deeper of a wine I don’t know that it would have gone as well with the dish as it did.

The bottom line is that I feel it was a really drinkable wine yet slightly unremarkable. It didn’t make me go ‘Wow!’ or ‘Oh my God! This is great!’ It did it’s job by complimenting my delicious meal and left me satisfied. Again I have nothing to compare it with but I promise in the future I will try other Chiantis and then I’ll know better where this one stands.

Buzz Factor: 3, a very light bodied wine.

Overall Likability: 5, it didn’t leave a big impression on me. It just kind of fell in the ‘It’s okay’ category for now.